Principles in Physical Geography

University of Galway

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Principles in Physical Geography

  • Host University

    University of Galway

  • Location

    Galway, Ireland

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    Students may not take this course if enrolled in TI236, TI237, or TI253

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Description of Course

    The term applied geomorphology can be interpreted to mean ?the techniques of geomorphology applied to real-world problems?, that is, things society cares about. This class applies knowledge of geomorphology to problems in the built and coastal environments. In the first half of this course we will examine rock formation processes, as well as principles of physical, chemical and biological weathering, and mass movement. This knowledge will be relied upon to gain an understanding of the geological evolution of Ireland. The course will go on to identify features of decay in the built environment, and critically examine methods of conservation and restoration.

    The second potion of this course will focus on the basic processes operating along the coast, coastal landforms, and themes in applied coastal geomorphology. The interaction between the marine, terrestrial, and atmospheric systems results in a wide range of coastal processes and landforms. As the coast is a highly dynamic environment it is susceptible to rapid change. Once the foundations of this morpho-dynamic system had been examined, perspectives on coastal zone management will be discussed.

    Aims and objectives

    * Introduce students to basic concepts of geomorphology, in terms of both rock formation and weathering.
    * The knowledge gained in the relevant lectures will enable students identify processes of weathering in the built environment in Galway city and suggest possible methods of conservation.
    * To introduce coastal landform morphology and the processes of landform development.
    * To practice techniques for recognition and analysis of landforms and processes.
    * To describe typical applications of geomorphology to geoscience, engineering and environment protection.

    Learning outcomes

    * An understanding of the basic principles of rock formation and weathering.
    * An ability to apply lecture-based knowledge to our surrounding built environment.
    * An ability to critically assess methods of conservation and evaluate ethical issues involved.
    * An understanding of basic processes operating along the coast (e.g. waves, tides, currents, and sea-level rise).
    * Students will be able to characterise the dynamics of the shoreface and beaches including coastal sediment transport and deposition, and coastal erosion.
    * Students will acquire practical field experience in a coastal setting that is transferable to other areas of the earth sciences.
    * A subsidiary objective will be the development of writing and presenting skills.
    Methods of Assessment

    60% - Final exam (2 hour)

    40% - Two practical exercises:

    1. Fieldtrip and essay (20%): Students will examine the types of stone commonly used in Galway city?s built environment. They will look for evidence of weathering processes and the damage caused, and suggest possible methods of conservation.
    2. Fieldtrip and group presentation (20%): This fieldtrip is designed to introduce students to the critical evaluation of the coastal landscape. Focusing specifically on the construction of landforms, coastal processes and management practices within Galway, this fieldtrip shall afford students the opportunity to engage with and critically evaluate the processes in operation within a coastal setting.


    The lectures provide a framework around which students can structure their learning, but account for only part of the course. Additional resources provided online are an integral part of the course, and the lectures and the assessments have been designed for students who have engaged fully with those resources, including the set readings associated with lectures. It is essential that you refer to the online resources for the course as a whole and for each week?s lecture, and that you complete any set pre-reading before each lecture.

    Key texts

    Sparks, B.W. (various years). Geomorphology (various editions). Essex: Longman Scientific and Technical.

    Bland, W. and Rolls, D. (1998). Weathering ? An introduction to the scientific principles. London: Arnold.

    Pavia, S. & Bolton, J (2000) Stone, Brick & mortar ? Historical Use, Decay and Conservation of Building Materials in Ireland. Bray: Wordwell.

    Feely, M. (2002) Galway in Stone ? A Geological Walk in the Heart of Galway. Dublin: Geoscapes.

    Haslett, S. K. (2000). Coastal Systems. London, Routledge.

    Davis Jr., R. and Fitzgerald D. (2004) Beaches and Coasts. Oxford, Blackwell.

    Carter, R. W. G. (1988). Coastal Environments. London, Academic Press.

    Masselink, G. and Hughes, M. G. (2003). Coastal Processes and Geomorphology. London, Hodder Arnold.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits are converted to semester credits/quarter units differently among U.S. universities. Students should confirm the conversion scale used at their home university when determining credit transfer.

Please reference fall and spring course lists as not all courses are taught during both semesters.

Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.


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